BATON ROUGE, La (NBC33) — Buddy Blackwell always knew he would serve in the military.
"We have a tradition in our family of serving in the military, one that I'm very proud of," he says.
He served in Germany in 1973. "It was just after Vietnam. Vietnam was just winding down in the early 70s and the military was in pretty bad shape."
It was a similar story for the Gary brothers, Brent and Dexter. Both joined the army years ago.
"They called me the day before my last child was born, and I went," Dexter says.
It's been a long time since the brothers have seen a battlefield, but the memories are still fresh.
"We saw a lot of boys get hurt," Dexter says. "It was sad to see such young men die."
Friday, in the shade of 31 oak trees representing men and women who died in World War I, they pay tribute to others like themselves. "It's an honor for me. It's a brotherhood of a magnitude you can't imagine," Brent says.
LSU hosted a ceremony in the Memorial Oak Grove for dozens of veterans and their family, complete with a reading of 1,200 names of fallen soldiers from the SEC states.
"You hear taps and it just sends a chill up your spine," Brent says.
They also honor the ones who never made it home.
"The guys who didn't make it are the true heroes of our country," Blackwell says. "It's appropriate that we at least take one day to remember the folks that have died and given so much."
They're proud to play their part in history to keep the United States of America safe.
"There was a time when I did wear the uniform," Blackwell says. "I'm very proud of that and always will be."